Bloggers, whether you like us or not, are here to stay.
While some may have morphed naturally from traditional journalism, where facts must be reported and sources referenced, to online journalism then to blogging, others have organically grown from part time hobby bloggers to full time self published blog writers with no publishers or editors to report to. Lucky them.
The rise of the ‘mummy blogger’ has been well documented, even here, and food bloggers have taken over the restaurant world blogging their opinion of hard working chefs trying to make a living. Some opinions are spot on, others are nothing more than sensationalist views created to increase hits.
Right or wrong, bloggers with a following can help and grow, or hinder and close your business. The online community and social media have given everyone a voice to state their opinion, and lord knows we’ve all got one, myself included.
So it has never been more important to be absolutely clear about your own marketing messages. If you have a product you are trying to sell then know what that product is, why you created it and how it benefits the potential buyer. Don’t bury that message in copy that no-one reads on your website, put it on your home page, make it a tag line on every page, imprint it on a buyer’s brain.
As many of you know, I am an avid skier, I write about it as part of my living and I am an absolute stickler for safety, to the point that I have been abused on my own Fairfax Snow It All blog when suggesting safety changes including not skiing with people who are drugged or drunk. But that’s all part of the online world, if you write and allow comments then be prepared for what comes back.
The ski industry is a tight one and a hard nut to crack into as a British startup company has found out this week. Snow-Beacon is a technical transmitting device that you wear on your person while skiing. The idea behind Snow Beacon is that it is to be worn in-resort only and not in the backcountry (non patrolled out of bounds snow areas far from the resort).
Their target market is cash strapped family skiers who want their children to have added safety should an avalanche happen in the resort. Admittedly in bound avalanches are very few and far between but a number of inbound avalanches did happen in the northern season just gone and if I had a child I’d want them to have the best chance of survival. Though it is prudent to point out that they rarely if ever happen in Australia, so perhaps the market should be kept to north of the equator.
An avalanche beacon that transmits and receives for search AND rescue can cost hundreds of dollars and skiing is already a costly past time. Children are not considered capable of performing an avalanche search and the inventor’s idea, right or wrong, is that they should still transmit a signal (that ski patrol can pick up on THEIR beacons) even if they can’t search for one. Why? For added piece of parental mind while skiing in bounds.
Right. So that’s their product, that’s their market and good on them for having the guts to give it a go as a business. However, while their tag line is ‘affordable mountain safety’ and (was, it has now been updated) clearly seen on their web home page the message that this is not for backcountry skiers is not (this has also now been updated). Nor is the message about added peace of safety mind for parents in resorts, nor is the message that it is a transmitting device only.
There lies the problem. The message isn’t clear. Sure, you can read on their Why We Do It Page and on their FAQ page that they also offer a receiving device (which is in the making) but the truth is the message has to be clear from the first impression.
*May 24 – the business owners have since updated their website to say ‘resort based avalanche transmitter’ instead of ‘affordable mountain safety’ since this blog was published
One snow blogger took to the online world this week with his thoughts on why this product is ‘irresponsible’ in the backcountry. He then stirred up a bevy of negative online comments by continually posting his blog in global online forums and Facebook pages, no doubt to increase his own hits which he is entitled to do, a blogger’s advertising lives or dies by their hit rate. I, too, know the power of a sensational headline as this blog attests.
One major website in the ski world, Unofficial Networks, picked up the blogger’s post that he sent them on their Facebook page and ran with it on an international stage. They too didn’t speak to the founder, they don’t have to (yet), everything on the internet is open fodder for comment and this is something we ALL need to be aware of, especially if you are a startup or business.
Only now the startup is launching with a host of negative chat on the internet around their product, which by midday on May 24 had gone completely viral, with debate created by a smaller, and highly vocal, percentage of skiers who ski backcountry that are not the brand’s market anyway.
However the blogger missed the point because it wasn’t there on the original website – the product is not being marketed for the backcountry. How do I know? Because I went to the source and asked the inventor.
“It was developed because some people (my daughter for instance, who is a good skier) is too young to participate in an avalanche rescue but, in my opinion should not be excluded from carrying an active avalanche transmitter while skiing in bounds” said James Aubrey Robson. “”If you do buy this and it is for your family and kids for in bounds skiing then you get them on the educational thought process early.”
So who is at fault here? The blogger for not speaking to the inventor and posting his opinion based on a piece of public marketing collateral, a website, or the startup inventor for not being bang on absolutely clear in the tag line and home page and employing a website writer to get that message across?
Bloggers and social media are not going to go away, they are here to stay and I for one wouldn’t have it any other way despite living in constant fear of myself being burned in the judgemental world we now all live in. But it is up to the marketer or business owner to be exceptionally clear about what it is they are promoting. If you can’t say it in one sentence then find a way.
“Snow-beacon – affordable resort safety for snow loving families” or similar may work or it may need more or less detail.
I like this as a cost effective product for kids, I think it’s great to see an inventor offering something that doesn’t cost the earth and I think if pitched in line with skiing safety education for in resort skiing only then it can work but it will be about instilling that message.
I also respect a blogger’s right to state their opinion and avalanches and backcountry issues are a very passionate one for those of us who have lost friends in the ski world, myself included, where safety is paramount. I love how blogging gets a conversation going and that we don’t have to all agree. But I do think this is a great example of the power of online chat and opinion and how it can work for or against you as a startup business.
Be clear, be concise and know your market (and let us know that you know your market). After talking to James, the founder, by phone today he has seen the whole blogging experience as a learning curve with feedback for getting his message clear and how writing specifically for a website is crucial. Albeit an expensive reputation learning curve thanks to the blogging world, one we can all learn from.
So now what do we have? A blogger who has rightly increased his hits and got his message out to his market and a well meaning startup on a steep marketing learning curve who launched their website too early. It’s not hard to figure out who wins in the world of online media.
My tip? Watch Snow Beacon’s space for a reworked home page.
*May 24 – Snow Beacon’s home page has been updated since this blog post to clearly state ‘resort based avalanche transmitter’. We look forward to seeing a sticker on the beacon saying ‘not for backcountry use’…just a suggestion
**May 24 5pm- the Snow Beacon website has updated their product web page to reflect their messages
Have you been caught out on social media or the blogging community? What are your tips to working with, not against, bloggers?
Added note – I have been asked why I did not link to any of the blogs written about Snow Beacon. I chose not to enter the debate as to whether it is or isn’t an irresponsible product nor to buy into any negative commentary in the online snow world. Why? Because THIS blog is about marketing and media and how and what we can learn from this experience about marketing and media.